Dec 06

Don’t condescend on TABOR refund, Democrats

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

TABOR1 pictureDemocrats in the legislature are flirting with the idea of a ballot measure asking voters if the state can keep a likely refund dictated by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Good for them. The state needs the money to backfill both K-12 and higher education, and for transportation.

But Democrats might want to refine their pitch. According to incoming House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, “people would be far better off if we invested that in infrastructure, education — something that really benefited them rather than (them) getting their 50 bucks to spend on a tank of gas or something.”

Intentionally or not, her statement oozes the sort of condescension that voters detest.

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http://www.denverpost.com/editorials/ci_27061668/dont-condescend-tabor-refund-democrats

 

Dec 06

Diverging from Hickenlooper, Democrats consider not supporting tax refund

 Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an election-eve budget plan that supported taxpayer refunds next year, but his Democratic colleagues in the legislature are openly considering a move to spend the money.

The talk comes as the Joint Budget Committee continues preliminary meetings to craft the state budget and raises the specter of an intraparty showdown on one of the top legislative issues in the upcoming 2015 session.

Under the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, Colorado must return any tax collections in excess of its constitutional revenue cap, which is set by the rate of inflation plus population growth. Right now, the state forecasts a potential $130 million refund.

In a recent interview, noted in a story looking at Hickenlooper’s second term, incoming House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst made the most direct suggestion that Democrats may support a ballot measure in 2015 to ask voters to keep the money for state spending instead of issuing a refund

TABOR picture“If we don’t do anything as a state, we are going to be spending almost as much money as we refund, refunding money to people, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of common sense to me,” the Boulder Democrat said. “The people would be far better off if we invested that in infrastructure, education — something that really benefited them rather than (them) getting their 50 bucks to spend on a tank of gas or something.”

Hullinghorst didn’t elaborate, but the cost for refunding TABOR is typically negligible because it’s done through tax filings.

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Nov 27

California’s experience makes economic, political benefits of Colorado’s TABOR clear

Rapid growth in the Colorado economy will increase state revenue in excess of the TABOR limit. Colorado’s TABOR constitutional amendment limits the growth of state revenue to the sum of population growth plus inflation; surplus revenue above that limit must be refunded to taxpayers.

Legislative analysts estimate $137 million in TABOR refunds for the next fiscal year. In the following year the state must offset surplus revenue with a temporary income tax rate reduction estimated at $234 million. Given the range of error in these estimates, the average Colorado household should expect to get somewhere between $50 and $100 per year in TABOR refunds.

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Nov 18

Avon – Patriots Petition for a Vote of the Citizens

What can you do when…

Local Government STOPS listing to the Citizens they allegedly represent?

When Local Government tries to take on Millions more in long term Debt – spanning (2) decades to pay it all back?

(Photo – L-R, Avon Clerk Debbie Hoppe, Avon Police Chief – Robert Ticer, Dave Strandjord (Veteran, USMC)

Debbie-Hoppe-Avon-Police-Chief-Robert-Ticer-Dave-Stranjord

When Local Government plans to “pay off decades of Debt” by using the 2% (RETT – Real Estate Transfer Tax) – levied against all real Property in Avon?

The answer is…Avon Patriot Citizens “Petition their Local Government” – (and with a sufficient number of Avon Voters, signatures…you can legally force a “special election” either/or their Town Council can Repeal their Ordinance that authorized Millions more in Debt.  Dave Strandjord shown here returning 233 Avon Signatures – to be verified by Avon Clerk Debbie Hoppe.

This week (17-21NOV2014) Avon Voters should know the results of this Petition Drive.

Stand by.  More News from the ECT shortly.

http://eaglecountytimes.com/2014/11/17/avon-patriots-petition-for-a-vote-of-the-citizens/

Nov 18

Citizens Referendum – Stops Avon! (for now)

News from Eagle County, Colorado

Dateline:  Tuesday, November 18th 2013 –  Avon’s Grass Roots Citizens ‘Petition for Referendum’ has (for now) stopped the out going Avon Council from taking on millions more in long term DEBT!Their plan was to pay for this Millions in proposed/new DEBT by using the 2% (RETT – Real Estate Transfer Tax) that is attached to all REAL PROPERTY  in the Town of Avon.What next?

Answer:  Avon’s new Council (to be sworn in tonite) – has only (2) legal options they can exercise – now that Avon’s Clerk and Record (Debbie Hoffe) has issued her legal “Certificate of Sufficiency” (based on the Citizens signature Petition) stopping the Avon Council’s plan.

Option 1:  Repeal (read kill) the Avon Ordinance that was used to authorized the new DEBT.

Option 2:  Hold a “special election” and let registered Avon voters make the final decision.

The Nuclear Option?  Yes, there is one other legal possibility that (Avon Finance Manger – Scott Wright – does not support)…the “possibility” that Avon Council could vote to take $3.5 Million (out of Avon’s General Fund) and buy the “Building for Avon Bureaucrats” (also known as the Skier Building) for cash.   The ECT folks agree with Mr. Wright that would be a very bad decision.

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Nov 13

Will Colorado Taxpayers Actually Receive a Marijuana Refund?

Source: http://www.fcgov.com/

In case you haven’t heard already, Colorado has been making a killing off of legal marijuana. The substance — which we’ve come to know by many names like reefer, pot, bud, herb, and gonja just to name a few — has brought in millions for the Rocky Mountain state. Colorado’s marijuana tax revenue data was just released for the month of September.

Looking at this tax data, it appears as though the trend-setting state didn’t sell as much retail marijuana as it did during the month prior. But, in spite of the sales slowdown, the state is still earning enough cash from marijuana to have its citizens profit. Under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), Colorado citizens may even receive a ‘refund’ because marijuana revenues were higher than anticipated.

September’s taxes and revenue

During September, Colorado brought in $2.94 million from sales taxes on recreational marijuana alone. Considering a 10% tax rate, this means sales during the month of September were just under $30 million, which is a cool $3 million less than during the month of August when the state brought in $3.31 million in recreational marijuana sales tax revenue.

On top of this cash, Colorado is still earning huge tax dollars from medical marijuana sales taxes (at 2.9%) which have brought the state over $900,000 during the month of September alone. It also earns money from the additional 2.9% tax it imposes on retail pot, and the 15% excise tax that’s imposed on suppliers, manufacturers, etc.

What is TABOR and is it unique to Colorado?

The TABOR is designed to be a kind of like a system of checks and balances. In Colorado, the TABOR limits the amount of revenue growth to the sum of the state’s population growth plus any increase in the rate of inflation. This means that if the population were to grow by 2% and inflation were to grow by 2%, available state revenue can increase by no more than 4%, unless voters approve an increase.

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According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, “Under TABOR, state and local governments cannot raise tax rates without voter approval and cannot spend revenues collected under existing tax rates if revenues grow faster than the rate of inflation and population growth, without voter approval.”

Other states have brought similar TABOR legislation to the table in the past, but Colorado is the only state that actually has such a policy in action.

Nov 13

Colorado Taxpayers In Line To Receive Refund

Two tax refunds possible in Colorado. 9NEWS at 5 p.m. 11/12/14.

NVER—Colorado taxpayers could be in for a pair of refunds from the state, depending on how lawmakers decide to handle two issues caused by the state’s taxpayer bill of rights (TABOR).

That larger of the two refunds would be because of tax revenue forecast to come in $136.6 million more than the limit set by TABOR next fiscal year, which would amount to $41.80 per adult in Colorado, using population figures from the US Census Bureau.

A smaller refund is expected to be triggered in this current year’s budget, tied to legal marijuana sales.

The state may have to refund most of the marijuana taxes it collected in the first full fiscal year of legal sales or recreational pot, an estimated $30.5 million.

That refund would amount to $7.63 per adult in Colorado.

Don’t go making plans to spend your refund just yet.

Lawmakers can always ask voters to let the state keep that money.

While Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) has not publicly stated what he thinks the legislature should do about the refunds, there are signs that lawmakers may ask you to at least part with your marijuana refund.

MARIJUANA TAX

A refund on marijuana taxes would not happen because pot sales brought in more money than expected to state government.

In fact, the taxes raised less money than the state predicted.

However, because the state’s official voter guide for Proposition AA in 2013 underestimated the total overall tax collections that would be made by Colorado in 2014-15, TABOR requires the new tax to be refunded, a requirement only imposed in the first full fiscal year of a new tax.

“Because of a quirk in the TABOR amendment, we may have to refund all of the first year’s [marijuana] taxes,” said Sen. Pat Steadman, a Democrat who sits on the joint budget committee. “I’m pretty clear that that’s not what voters had in mind.”

Lawmakers do have the option of asking voters to allow the state to keep the money in excess of what TABOR allows.

While Republicans generally favor refunds in these cases, they may be inclined to make an exception this time because the voters directly approved the new taxes on pot.

“I think that was probably the intent of the voters,” said Sen. Kent Lambert, the Republican chairman of the budget committee. “I think that’s probably the way we’ll end up, probably going to the ballot, but I think that’s going to be a decision of the whole general assembly.”

TABOR LIMIT

The larger of the two refunds exposes the broader philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans about taxation and the role of government.

This refund would be triggered purely by a healing economy, not an entanglement with a new voter-enacted tax.

Most Republicans are happy to cut you your check, in keeping with the spirit of TABOR.

“This is the taxpayer’s money,” Lambert told 9NEWS. “We have some limitations on the growth of government through the taxpayer’s bill of rights that I think most people in my caucus respect.”

Conversely, most Democrats would rather ask voters to let the state keep the money.

They’d prefer to use this money to pay for improvements to highways and bridges, or beef up school funding to pre-recession levels.

“Before we start making refunds to people we ought to ask should we fix the roof on the barn in the good year instead of just giving it all away,” Steadman said.

Now that Republicans control the state Senate, they are in the stronger position. If they don’t cut a deal, the refunds will happen automatically.

Lambert floated a more ambitious idea: lower tax rates to avoid triggering the refund.

With Democrats still holding a House majority, that’s an idea that’s unlikely to be enacted, though there could be support for tax credits that could reduce the overall size of any refund.

If a refund does move forward, lawmakers do have sway over how the money is distributed to taxpayers. People at different income levels could receive different amounts.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

http://www.9news.com/story/news/local/2014/11/12/two-tax-refunds-possible-in-colorado/18942877/

Nov 09

Look to Ref C’s success for Colorado’s fiscal future

 

Editorials

Look to Ref C’s success for Colorado’s fiscal future

By The Denver Post Editorial Board

The late state  Sen.  Ken Gordon carries a sign at the Colorado Capitol showing his support for Referendums C and D  in September 2005. Voters passed the

The late state Sen. Ken Gordon carries a sign at the Colorado Capitol showing his support for Referendums C and D in September 2005. Voters passed the measure in November of that year. (Karl Gehring, Denver Post file)

The cyclically punitive nature of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights has put Colorado in a bind more than once.

Just last week, revenue estimates showed the state will exceed TABOR revenue caps in 2015-16 by $137 million and will have to issue refunds, which will mostly go to low-income residents as tax credits.

The “excess” is supposed to continue through 2016-17, and perhaps longer, with an additional $239 million forecast to be collected and refunded.

Yet, the state faces significant needs in education and transportation as it emerges from a recession and tries to recover from budget cuts.

And that is the bitter reality of TABOR, as true today as it was a decade ago: Its restraints hamper the state’s ability to have its budget rebound from a recession.

Now that elections are behind us, it’s time for state leaders to replicate the bipartisan will mustered in 2005 to craft a timeout from constitutional spending caps and put a measure before voters.

Referendum C was the product of intense negotiations between then-Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, and the legislature, which was controlled by Democrats. It wasn’t easy to come to agreement on all the finer points, particularly when it came to the sunset provision of Ref C, which asked voters to let the state keep revenues above the TABOR cap.

But by the end of the 2005 legislative session, lawmakers and the governor had agreed on a plan — and after a hard-fought campaign, voters were persuaded to approve it as well.

Ref C is the template that should be followed today.

This would not be a “tax increase” any more than Ref C was, despite what critics will undoubtedly charge.

The measure would simply ask voters whether the state could keep revenues above the TABOR limit that it is already collecting.

Of course, passage of such a measure would end the prospect of refunds, but we think — we hope — voters would understand the need for fresh revenues to backfill recession-era cuts to K-12 funding.

And it should also be evident, given the recent hullabaloo over how the state has had to resort to private companies to help pay for major transportation projects such as U.S. 36, that highway funding is in seriously short supply.

Coloradans, to their credit, are pragmatists when it comes to government spending. The Ref C model, in which a broad coalition pitched specific spending needs, appealed to that sensible nature once and should be pursued again.

To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by e-mail or mail.

 

http://www.denverpost.com/editorials/ci_26892088/look-ref-cs-success-colorados-fiscal-future

Nov 09

Colorado Residents Looking at Pot Tax Rebate

Colorado-Residents-Looking-at-Pot-Tax-Rebate-650x434Last Monday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper unveiled the state’s $26.8 billion proposed budget for next fiscal year. The budget includes $167.2 million in tax rebates for Colorado taxpayers, including $30.5 million in rebates due to total state revenue that was higher than predicted. Under the Colorado Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) the state must either refund the excess amount above the estimate,or add a measure to a future ballot asking the voters to let the state keep and spend the surplus.

The rebates are mandated by TABOR, because the revenue from marijuana sales is different than projections included in the election book for the 2013 Proposition AA. Under TABOR, since the estimate was off, the state has to either refund the excess cash or go to voters to ask if the state can keep it.

The budget proposal was announced one day before the Nov. 4 election that gave Hickenlooper another term. The spending plan includes a 7 percent increase from the current year’s budget, representing $1.7 billion in new spending of state and federal money. $908 million in state spending includes $107 million in additional funds for higher education, $103 million for road projects and a 2 percent pay hike for many state employees.

Colorado’s economy is improving, but much of the new money is due to tax collections exceeding the state’s revenue cap, triggering rebates under TABOR for the first time in 15 years. The provision requires refunds if the revenue is greater than the rate of population growth and inflation. Unless, that is, the voters decide to return the money.

Hickenlooper’s budget directs $167.2 million of the TABOR rebate for fiscal year 2015-16 toward a tax credit for low income workers, along with sales tax refunds. He did not address exactly how to rebate the $30.5 million portion for recreational pot taxes, that decision being left to state lawmakers.

The rebate issue became a campaign issue last month when the governor was noncommittal on whether he would endorse a tax rebate, or if he would ask voters for permission to spend it. At a gubernatorial debate Oct. 24 he did commit to a rebate.

Vice Chairman of the Joint Budget Committee Sen. Pat Steadman said the overage is not happening because the taxes are exceeding the estimates, but rather because the economy is growing. Hickenlooper stated that “Colorado’s economic activity continues to outperform the national expansion,” and said looking ahead, the most likely scenario is for that momentum to continue.

Lawmakers have the option to lower excise and sales tax rates on recreational pot to bring the revenue in line with projections, but that would most likely impact $40 in annual excise tax revenue that has been allocated to school construction. Rep. Cheri Gerou, a member of the Joint Budget Committee, said lowering the sales tax rate would mean the state could not take care of K-12 education under BEST, the Building Excellent Schools Today program.

So much of the marijuana revenue is allocated for school construction and reimbursing counties for regulation expenses that it is possible that the cannabis refund would have to come out of the state’s general fund. It is uncertain how the pot tax rebate will be handled, whether it will go to all Colorado taxpayers or only to those who bought recreational marijuana. Gerou said that despite the higher-than-projected revenue, legalized recreational marijuana could actually cost the state money in this first year.

By Beth A. Balen
Read more at http://guardianlv.com/2014/11/colorado-residents-looking-at-pot-tax-rebate/#fgIF8cuuEo3AYXHk.99

 

Nov 03

Hickenlooper’s budget plan endorses tax rebates, new state spending

 

Gov. John Hickenlooper (Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file photo)

A day before voters decide whether to give him another term, Gov. John Hickenlooper on Monday unveiled a $26.8 billion state budget proposal for the next fiscal year that includes about $200 million in rebates to taxpayers.

The Democrat’s spending plan represents $1.7 billion in new spending in federal and state money, a 7 percent increase from the current fiscal year budget.

The $908 million in new state spending includes $103 million for road projects, $107 million in additional funds for higher education and a 2 percent pay hike for most state employees.

The new money available reflects Colorado’s improving economy but tax collections also exceeded the state’s revenue cap under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights — triggering rebates for the first time in 15 years.

Hickenlooper’s budget puts aside $167.2 million for a TABOR rebate in the fiscal year 2015-16 budget, which state law directs toward a tax credit for low-income workers and sales tax refunds.

The constitutional provision mandates refunds when revenue exceeds the rate of inflation and population growth, unless voters decide to return the money.

Hickenlooper sidestepped the question about how to rebate another $30.5 million in excess recreational marijuana taxes, leaving it to state lawmakers to decide the appropriate method.

The TABOR rebate issue became a campaign touch-point a month ago when Hickenlooper wavered on whether he would endorse a tax rebate or ask voters for permission to spend it, but eventually committed to a rebate at an Oct. 24 debate.

The governor’s aides briefed reporters on the budget proposal Monday afternoon while Hickenlooper worked the campaign trail.

In his 28-page letter to lawmakers outlining his plan, Hickenlooper touted the state’s economy. “Colorado’s economic activity continues to outperform the national expansion,” he said.

Republican challenger Bob Beauprez saw the governor’s budget as an opportunity to poke at Hickenlooper about the TABOR rebates, which he firmly supported in the campaign.

“We’re pleased that, thanks to Bob Beauprez’s leadership, John Hickenlooper has suddenly discovered it’s the taxpayers’ money, not his,” campaign spokesman Allen Fuller said in a statement. “Even this election eve 180-degree flip is not enough to erase over a decade of pushing for billions in tax increases.”

The timing of the governor’s budget release only added to the political context, but the date is prescribed in state law. The Joint Budget Committee — a panel of three House and three Senate lawmakers — will meet Nov. 12 to hear Hickenlooper’s plan and begin deliberations.

Other key provisions in the governor’s plan include:

• A total $480 million more for education, including a one-time $200 million infusion from state coffers, to increase per pupil funding to $7,496, a $475 increase.

• Another $155 million to cover an expected 218,000 new Medicaid patients whose cost is not entirely paid by the federal government under the program’s expansion

• More than $8 million for counties to hire 130 new child welfare employees meant to reduce onerous case loads.

• An additional $282 million to finish state constructions projects underway, including money to reduce wait times by upgrading the state’s driver’s license system.

Senate President Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, said she supports Hickenlooper’s spending priorities. “We are at a turning point with the economic recovery, and we have a lot at stake with this next budget,” she said in a statement.

What happens Election Day will influence the budget plan’s direction. Democrats now control both chambers and hold a 4-to-2 advantage on the budget committee.

The state House is likely to remain in Democratic hands, but Republicans are vying for control of the state Senate. If Republicans win the Senate majority, the budget committee will split the political parties 3 to 3.

If Beauprez wins, he will get the opportunity to submit his own budget proposal early next year.

John Frank: 303-954-2409, jfrank@denverpost.com or twitter.com/ByJohnFrank

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_26856988/hickenloopers-budget-plan-endorses-tax-rebates-new-state